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What Is the Difference between Clotrimazole and Miconazole?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Clotrimazole and miconazole are two different drugs entirely, although their functions and makeups are similar. Both are used in the treatment of fungal infections, primarily yeast infections. Despite these simularities, they are often used in different parts of the body and they have different active ingredients.

Both medications are used to treat fungal infections in the intestines, vagina, skin, or mouth. Each is more effective at treating certain areas of the body when compared with the other. Clotrimazole is often used in topical creams for use on the external skin, as it is most powerful when used in this manner. Miconazole is commonly used as a cream in the treatment of vaginal yeast infections and sometimes external skin infections. Neither drug is usually recommended for internal use, although miconazole is still used as an oral treatment in some countries.

Clotrimazole is used topically to treat fungal infections.
Clotrimazole is used topically to treat fungal infections.

Although clotrimazole and miconazole are different drugs, they work in similar ways. Both drugs inhibit fungal growth by destroying the fungus's ability to adequately build cells. This can help alleviate symptoms and complications arising from infections.

A certain amount of yeast on and in the body is normal and acts to help prevent pathogenic bacteria from overgrowing. Beneficial bacteria usually keeps fungi at bay, but sometimes it may overgrow in the vaginal and digestive tracts if the balance is thrown off. Fungi may also infect the skin or digestive system through exposure to infected people or through other, usually unknown, methods.

Miconazole can come in suppository form to treat vaginal yeast infections.
Miconazole can come in suppository form to treat vaginal yeast infections.

Both drugs are considered safe to use for most people. There is some risk of side effects, primarily in cream or gel formulations, which can include itching, redness, burning, or tingling in areas the drug was applied. Drug interactions may also take place in some cases, so patients should speak with a medical professional before using clotrimazole- and miconazole-based medications.

Both clotrimazole and miconazole stop fungus' ability to build cells.
Both clotrimazole and miconazole stop fungus' ability to build cells.

Since there are so many ailments that may cause symptoms similar to those related to a fungal infection, it is important for patients to receive a proper diagnosis before using either of these medications. Bacterial infections, especially those occurring in the vaginal area, often cause the same symptoms as a yeast infection. Anti-fungal creams will not work when used for bacterial infections, and they may even make the problem worse.

Availability of Clotrimazole Vs Miconazole

Contracting an STD as a result of unsafe sexual practices may cause a woman to also develop a fungal vaginal infection.
Contracting an STD as a result of unsafe sexual practices may cause a woman to also develop a fungal vaginal infection.

Both miconazole and clotrimazole are available without a prescription. Nearly any grocery or drug store has some variety of these products for sale, both in generic and name brand forms. They are also available at numerous online drug stores and retailers. Depending on the condition you are looking to treat, these products may be available in different forms.


Available as both a store brand medication or sold under the name brands including Lotramin and Desenex, clotrimazole is sold in the following forms:

  • Soap
  • Cream
  • Powder
  • Gel
  • Vagial suppositories

Typically, you can purchase this medication in a 1% active ingredient concentration regardless of the product line.


Also sold as Monistat vaginal cream and Zeasorb topical lotion in the US, this medication is regularly sold in 2% strength. While the active ingredient is twice as potent as in clotrimazole, it doesn’t mean this medication works any faster than the other. You can purchase miconazole as a:

  • Topical cream
  • Vaginal cream
  • Powder
  • Liquid
  • Spray

Effectiveness of Clotrimazole vs Miconazole Against Various Infections

You can use both of these medications to treat many types of fungal infections, but they have varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the cause. Knowing which one works best for your specific condition may help it go away faster. Here’s a closer look at how these drugs perform against different types of fungal infections.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Approximately 40% of women experience a vaginal yeast infection during their life. Once you’ve had one, you may be more susceptible to getting it again. The painful itching can make life very uncomfortable, but many ladies don’t want to visit a doctor for medication. Fortunately, there are numerous options available over–the–counter. Studies that compared miconazole against clotrimazole found that both remedies are equally effective in reducing vaginal yeast infections. However, researchers discovered that clotrimazole acted faster to cure the discomfort.

Ringworm/ Athlete’s Foot/ Jock Itch

Another common fungal infection is called ringworm. Worms don’t actually cause this condition, but the circular shape of the scaly patches of skin may resemble a coiled worm. Ringworm can occur anywhere on your body but often causes infections between the toes and bottoms of your feet or the groin area. Known respectively as athlete’s foot and jock itch, there are a wide variety of options available for treatment. You can purchase both miconazole and clotrimazole as creams, washes, sprays or powders explicitly marketed for the foot or groin areas. A study comparing the effectiveness of each medication found that both alleviated symptoms. Still, miconazole cleared about 75% of the infections within six weeks, while clotrimazole only eliminated the condition in 56% of the cases at the six-week mark. Miconazole is also available in a generic form that costs less than clotrimazole, making it a good choice for ringworm treatment.

Pityriasis versicolor

Tinea versicolor, also called pityriasis versicolor, is a skin infection that usually affects young adults or teens. While a small amount of fungus lives on your skin, you may experience an overgrowth that leads to an itchy rash when conditions are right. This rash can show up anywhere on your skin, but especially in areas that remain hot and moist. Both miconazole and clotrimazole creams are effective in eliminating this ailment.

Precautions When Using These Medications

While both of these medications are generally safe to use, there are some side effects to know about.

  • Skin – If you have sensitive skin or use a larger than necessary dose of either topical medication, you may notice dry, flaky skin, pimples, bumps, redness or swelling in the area where you’ve applied the medicine.
  • Allergic Reaction – If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the various anti-fungal treatments, you may notice swelling of your face, tongue or lips, or may experience a new rash or hives. This can be a life-threatening reaction, and you need to get medical help right away.
  • Vaginal – Since it takes a few days for the medication to impact the yeast, you may notice an increase in itching and burning for the first day or two. You may also see increased discharge and urination. These are common side effects that should go away within a few days.
  • Birth Control – The active ingredients in these medications interfere with the spermicidal gels used with condoms and diaphragms, making them less effective against pregnancy. It’s best to use an alternate form of protection while you use this treatment.

If you notice any of these side effects, discontinue the use of the medication and contact your doctor for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What distinguishes clotrimazole from miconazole?

Clotrimazole and miconazole differ in their chemical structures. Clotrimazole is classified as an imidazole antifungal, while miconazole belongs to the polyene antifungal group. Clotrimazole halts fungal growth by disrupting their cell membranes, while miconazole binds to ergosterol, an essential component of the fungal cell membrane, and interferes with the membrane's integrity.

What are the typical fungal infections treated with miconazole and clotrimazole?

Both miconazole and clotrimazole are commonly used to treat skin infections caused by fungi, such as athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm, and vaginal yeast infections. Miconazole is also used to manage more severe fungal infections, such as systemic candidiasis and cryptococcal meningitis. Clotrimazole is not recommended for treating such severe infections.

Are miconazole and clotrimazole safe for use?

Generally, miconazole and clotrimazole are safe for adults and children. However, you should adhere to the instructions on the packaging and consult with your doctor if you experience any adverse reactions to the medication.

Do miconazole and clotrimazole have any side effects?

Common side effects associated with using miconazole and clotrimazole include skin irritation, redness, itching, burning, and stinging. Less common side effects may include rash, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. If you experience any of these side effects, stop using the medication and consult with your doctor.

How long do I need to use miconazole or clotrimazole to treat my infection?

The duration of treatment with miconazole or clotrimazole varies based on the type and severity of the infection. Typically, treatment for most superficial fungal infections lasts between one and four weeks. However, treatment for more severe fungal infections may continue for several weeks or even months. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions and complete the full course of treatment to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.

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    • Clotrimazole is used topically to treat fungal infections.
      By: April Cat
      Clotrimazole is used topically to treat fungal infections.
    • Miconazole can come in suppository form to treat vaginal yeast infections.
      By: FirstBlood
      Miconazole can come in suppository form to treat vaginal yeast infections.
    • Both clotrimazole and miconazole stop fungus' ability to build cells.
      By: agephotography
      Both clotrimazole and miconazole stop fungus' ability to build cells.
    • Contracting an STD as a result of unsafe sexual practices may cause a woman to also develop a fungal vaginal infection.
      By: Peter Atkins
      Contracting an STD as a result of unsafe sexual practices may cause a woman to also develop a fungal vaginal infection.